Hailing from County Londonderry, Northern Ireland and born on 14 October 1980, Johnny Coulter had a passion for food at an early age. Growing up, he always helped his mother around the kitchen.

“I started washing dishes at the age of 14 in a local restaurant where I showed a lot of interest in what was happening and asked could I get involved,” Coulter said.

Now the regional executive chef for Millennium, Copthorne and Kingsgate in Northland, Coulter looks after two properties, Copthorne Hotel and Resort and Kingsgate Autolodge, Bay of Islands. He is currently building a regional team so they can successfully run both properties.

“We have such a diverse team which makes the kitchen interesting.”

As a young chef, Beef Wellington was an inspiration for Coulter. His favourite cooking technique is braising, and favourite ingredient is basil pesto.

“I love all seasonal produce. I love using baby vegetables – turnips, heirloom carrots, beetroots. I like to use local, fresh and seasonal products. My plan is to change my menus so it follows the seasons to ensure premium quality food.”

His favourite dish is ‘mums’ homemade lasagne or Irish stew. “This is on the menu when I get down time to revisit Ireland.”

Coulter previously worked as sous chef at 35 degrees South in Paihia, as sous chef at Novotel Lakeside in Queenstown, at Copthorne Hotel and Resort in Queenstown, and as head chef at Copthorne Hotel and Resort, Bay of Islands.

“Wellington was always on my ‘to do’ list, however in the future I would love to gain more international experience here in New Zealand and head to Asia where the culinary world is fast expanding.”

He said a great work ethic, the right attitude, a willing to learning, dedication, attention to detail, drive and passion has brought him to where he is today, and these were great attributes drilled into him as a child.

“I like to buy recipe books, magazines and get up to date with research on the Internet. I also like to learn from new employees coming from different culinary back grounds.
“Throughout the years I have trained many young chefs and seen them achieve their Level 3 and 4 Apprenticeships though Service IQ. Many have started as kitchen hands like myself and now have the experience and capabilities to run service. As a result I went on to become an Assesor for Service IQ gaining my US4098 where I can assess apprentices in the workplace.”

Coulter’s biggest accomplishment, amongst others, is becoming regional executive chef. He said his style of cooking has definitely changed throughout the years.

“I started in the 90s at the age of 15, where fusion started coming into the UK. British classics also became very popular in the 00s where gastro pubs began to take over; serving rustic, quality dishes that offered a slight contemporary twist. Healthier lifestyles have sparked a trend for low calorie options on menus and innovative recipes that combine healthy vegetables with traditional desserts in order to make sure people get their five a day.”

Being from Ireland, Richard Corrigan, Paul Rankin and UK chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey and Heston Blumenthal have had the most influence on Coulter.

“However, I’m not really into the whole celebrity chef world. I am who I am and I do what I do.”